Looking at the world with a “Magic Eye”

In 1993 the first of a series of “Magic Eye” books appeared. The books become bestsellers and the images in them caused a sensation. A print that appeared to be nothing but scribbles or repetitive patterns, would suddenly change into a three-dimensional image when viewed in the right way. The effect was both startling and magical. But the magic would not happen until you learned how to look at things differently. Instead of focusing your eyes on the page, as you would normally do, you had to learn to look ‘beyond’ the page.

These magical images are called “Autostereograms,” “Single Image Stereograms” (SIS), or simply “Stereograms” for short. If you are one of the few people who have never seen a stereogram, you can learn all about them and find plenty of examples on the Internet. If interested, just do a Google search for “stereogram.”

Why am I writing about stereograms? Because they make an excellent metaphor for life. They prove that delightful surprises await us when we make the effort to look at things in a new way. When we first see a stereogram, we have no idea of the three-dimensional image that is hidden within it. But if we drop our judgments and allow it to reveal itself to us, we can’t help squealing in delight as we discover the mystery that was formerly hidden.

An endless chain of surprises, wonders, and joy await us, if only we choose to look at the world differently. We need to look at things with a “Magic Eye.” For as Marcel Proust (1871 ~ 1922) wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

But how do we get ‘new eyes’ or a ‘Magic Eye’? There are just two steps involved. First, become aware of how we cloud our vision by judging and labeling everything that we see and experience. Second, drop those labels and allow what is before you to reveal itself. In other words, life is for learning, not for labeling. And, remember, learning leads to growth while labeling stunts growth.

So, the next time you are dealing with someone, don’t think, “He is dim-witted,” “She is stubborn,” “He is meanspirited,” or “They are uncooperative.” The adjectives that follow the verb “is” are merely labels that obscure your vision and conceal reality. So, drop the labels and recognize that he simply IS, she merely IS, and they just ARE.

It may appear difficult to do at first because of our innate desire to identify and label everything. However, we can overcome that difficulty by simply labeling people as “complex.” At least that will help us to admit that we cannot understand others immediately, and we need to give them time to reveal their splendor. Actually, we need to give ourselves time to see their splendor because we are the ones that are dim-witted.

By refusing to stick labels on others and ignoring the superficial and superfluous, we learn to see beyond the surface, allowing their soul to shine through. The splendor that we then discover is their magical three-dimensional, “Magic Eye” view. “Magic Eye” viewing represents a shift in consciousness, a way of seeing the world as it is, not as we think it is.

Whenever we feel upset, frustrated, or irritated, it is a signal that we have to change the way we are viewing life. We have to grow more accommodating, flexible, and understanding. When oysters are irritated they produce pearls. We can do the same by looking at what is troubling us with a “Magic Eye.” By looking beyond the surface, we can uncover the hidden good in any event.

If we are experiencing a conflict, it may be because we are trying to change someone. Trying to change someone makes as little sense as the actions of the king’s new servant. When the servant saw the Royal Falcon resting on a perch, he thought, “What a strange pigeon.” Using a pair of scissors, he then trimmed the claws, wings, and beak of the falcon and said, “Now you look good! Poor bird, your master must have been neglecting you!”

Sometimes we try to justify our desire to change others by claiming that we just want to help them. Unfortunately, our ‘help’ may be no more useful than that of the monkey who plucked the fish out of the stream to prevent it from ‘drowning.’

So-called religious people could also benefit from looking at things with a “Magic Eye.” Instead of looking into scripture to justify the oppression and killing of others, they would be better off looking into the eyes of those they disagree with. Why do some people worship God by paying homage to statures or sacred scripture, but ignore God that is present in every person?

When children find a fragment of a seashell on the beach, they don’t believe they have found the entire shell. Yet, adults who have found a fragment of the truth wrongly believe they have found all of it. They then build elaborate institutions that guard their version of the truth. Ironically, rather than being protected, the truth often gets lost.

It is like the story of a small group of men carrying a coffin to a freshly dug grave. They were startled to hear pounding on the lid of the coffin. When they set down the coffin and opened the lid, a man sat upright and screamed, “What are you doing? I’m still alive!” But the men outside the coffin said, “We’re sorry, but we have a certificate signed by the priest and doctor that proves you are dead.” And they quickly closed the lid and buried the man. Sometimes our beliefs prevent us from seeing with a “Magic Eye.”

Stepping over the bodies of those who were killed in a terrorist bombing, a woman in anguish cried out to heaven, “How can you allow something like this to happen? Why don’t You do something?” God answered, “I did do something. I made you.” Lily Tomlin understood this, for she said, “I used to think why doesn’t somebody do something about this? And then I realized I was somebody.”

To see with a “Magic Eye” is to see clearly, to see with the veil removed. It is to dispense with the trivial and grasp the profound. Six men are chatting over coffee. See if you can identify which one looks at life with a “Magic Eye.”

Enrico asked, “If you were granted anything you wanted, what would you wish for?”

“That’s easy,” Luigi said, “I’d wish for lot’s of money.”

That’s stupid,” Carlo interjected, “what good is money if you are sick? I would wish for good health.”

Pasquale chimed in, “But what good is health if you are unhappy? I would wish for happiness.”

“And what good is happiness if you have no one to share it with? I would wish for a wonderful wife.” said Francesco.

“Well, let’s ask Antonio. What would you wish for, Antonio?”

The answer came, “I would wish to be content with whatever I had.”

Here’s a final story to get us in the habit of looking at things with fresh eyes. Sarah went to Japanese temple to study under a great Zen Master, who had been teaching there for 28 years. One day he invited Sarah to join him in his room for tea. After entering the room, Sarah was surprised by what she saw. In her eyes, the room was barely larger than a telephone booth and had no furniture. They sat on cushions on the mat floor. The tea was on a lacquer tray, which was also resting on the floor. “Where is the furniture?” she asked. The Zen Master replied, “Where is your furniture?” “But I’m just a visitor here.” Sarah answered. “So am I.” came the reply.